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on 2 October 2006
On first hearing this album it was met, on my part, with incomprehension. It wasn't so much as I didn't understand it as I didn't understand why? My first thought was: why make an album like this? An album of random chatter, sound effects and occasional snatches of music proper. I put it on the shelf and didn't pick it up again for a couple of years.
Zappa's critics often accused him of banality; of wasting his talent and I have to admit I had similar misgivings on hearing this album. It came across as juvenile, of its day and unmusical. I could hear its novelty value but not it's lasting appeal. I couldn't see how I would ever grow to enjoy it. Nevertheless, a few years down the line and curiosity forced me into trying it again. It was during this play that I realised how good some of the music on Lumpy Gravy is: the album's opening of 'Duodenum' and especially the fantastic instrumental versions of 'Oh No' and 'Take Your Clothes Off'. After a few more plays the album settled on me as a whole. The spoken word segments and sound effects have a strange appeal and also help to highlight the music when it comes along.There is a seeming randomness about it all but if I remember correctly it was put together and edited down, by Zappa, over a period of nine months from hours worth of recorded voices and music. If it works it may be because Zappa knew exactly what he was doing and the apparent chaos is actually the result of his painstaking efforts.
Lumpy Gravy can be a difficult album to get to grips with and even if you do it is not an album you will find yourself reaching for in the early hours,after having a few, tapping your foot in anticipation of what's to come. It's not that sort of record. It does, however, have a strange and baffling charm that with a bit of persistence may just work on you.
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on 10 September 2001
An important stage in Zappa's evolution into a serious composer, and a brave move for a rock star in his 20s in 1968. This represents Zappa's first fully orchestral release, and may well be unique in that Zappa doesn't play a single note on the entire album. The majority of the album is made up of strange, mumbling snatches of conversation between various Mothers of Invention, groupies, and anyone else who happened to be wandering by the studio (allegedly recorded inside a piano) which, while ocassionally amusing, can tend to drag a little (even for a die-hard Zappaphile like myself). However, these indulgences are well worth trawling through when the suite turns to more serious matters, and Zappa conducts the Abnuceals Emuukha Elkectric Symphony Orchestra and Choir. These excursions owe much to Zappa's love of early-20th century German avant-garde composer Edgar Varese, and range from staccato percussion pieces, through dissonant orchestral stutters, to the highlight of the album, the theme 'Oh No' (later to be re-recorded, with lyrics, for 'Weasels Ripped My Flesh' - and, as such, - along with the strangely affecting surf-pop rendition of 'Take your clothes off' from 'We're only in it for the money' - representing the birth of Zappa's 'conceptual continuity' i.e. the impulse to continually revisit past themes and melodies). Typically, however, even the beautiful, swinging, expansive, groovy theme of 'Oh No, is somewhat infuriatingly cut up into two pieces with a lot of extraneous dialogue between the two halves.
On the whole, a fascinating insight into the ambitious mind of a fledgling genius - but perhaps one for the fans among us.
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on 22 August 2010
The first album of any kind that I ever bought (at 12) was Zappa's Burnt Weeny Sandwich. The next was Hot Rats. But then I spent my minimal pocket money on Freak Out and lost confidence because it sounded so dated, was hamstrung by political pop songs, and the guitar was so twangy. I imagined that Lumpy Gravy would be like Side 4 of Freak Out and therefore avoided it - until now when, at 5 quid or so, it seemed cheap enough for me to take a chance (at 53). It's great - fantastic textures, mesmerising voices, effortlessly great jazz and rock. It's hard even now for me to admit it, but Zappa lost it sometime around the early 'seventies. But he was still some kind of genius, and this album serves as a reminder of that.
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on 2 September 2010
Its such a great album. it took a wile to get into but when it hit me it hit me like a ton of lead, just the sheer brilliance of this album
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Many of you may find this extremely odd and unique record almost as unbearable as Trout Mask Replica, so taste before buying - it's not a good place to start if you're new to Frank Zappa (well I suppose it might be for a few) but if you enjoy the weirder stuff on the late 1960s Mothers albums then you should find this most entertaining. Also, if you have his Civilization Phase III from 1993, the dialogue here is from the same source (the music is very different, however).

There's an awful lot of Zappa's famed "conceptual continuity" on this album, some excellent if rather fragmented music, lots of surreal or just plain daft (and usually very funny) dialogue, and the whole thing is edited together in such an inspired and bafflingly satisfying manner that it becomes much more than the sum of its parts.

A record for the Zappa connoisseur, rather than completist - the former appreciates his best work, the latter merely has to have everything regardless of quality.
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on 12 April 2003
I think this is a fine Zappa release - one of his best. Interesting, funny, and different. I think a lot of people are put off this release due to the fact that it sounds little like the Mothers Of Invention stuff from around the same time. It is unfair to treat this the same as say 'We're Only In It For The Money' or 'Freak Out' etc, as, first of all, it is a Zappa solo release (his first) and secondly, Zappa changed the Mothers style on numerous releases ('Freak Out' was different to 'We're Only In It...', 'Rueben & The Jets' was different to 'Uncle Meat' etc etc). The beginning of track one starts with a speeded up 'jolly' piece - sounds like the Mothers doing surf music! - and builds into an unholy crescendo, mixing dark, odd humour, with bizarre orchestral pieces. Track 2 features more of the same and is just as valid. I don't think this album is the oddity in Zappa's collection that people think it is - he was always producing 'different' music - epecially in his earlier days - so, give it a chance - you may just love it!
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on 7 February 2004
this gem does deserve 5 stars and shouldnt be written off as random rubbish. the editing techniques are brilliant and must have been a big influence for later experimental rock music. reminds me of Nurse with Wound at times. Some brilliant snapshots of future songs especially the 2 beautiful versions of "Oh No" with its classical arrangment (which i think is better than the weasels one). there is much humour too- the conversation about ponies on track 2 makes me chuckle everytime i hear it.(secret clues inside the piano?)
Definatley one of Zappa's more experimental releases, (and apparently one of his favourites)this album is just as valid as his other ones.
Am listening to Grand Wazoo at the moment which is another classic. hell- they all are!
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on 7 March 2013
Gosh, but there are a LOT of Zappa completists out there, aren't there? One thing that seems to be missing from the other reviews is that "Lumpy Gravy" was originally conceived as the soundtrack of a BALLET (of all things!), and while it is absolutely true that Zappa was a huge Varese fan, he also leaked a little bit of Stravinsky-esque input into "Lumpy Gravy" along the lines of "Firebird", "Petrouchka" and PARTICULARLY the violence and iconoclasm of "Rite of Spring". What is boldest about the album is that Zappa is using cultural points outside the pop/rock medium to create a whole from disparate parts. The violence of the percussion, the outbreaks of "surf pop" viciously removed by the sound of a needle being torn across an album, "Big Country"-esque soundscapes being skittered across by high-speed marimbas, deliberately provocative nasal... er... sounds, hamsprachtmuzik in the form of seriously doped-out musicians, formal classical music breaks that Zappa just CAN'T leave running for more than a minute or two without undermining or simply SMASHING to pieces. It should be a huge car-crash, but it isn't - it is simply genius on a level that really needs to be appreciated on artistic levels that Zappa was not to reach again until the astonishing "Uncle Meat". Of course, most people associate Frank with the vicious satire of "We're Only In It For The Money" (and if you haven't heard it, you REALLY should), the sleazy "Live at the Fillmore East", or the twin pillars of his financially successful but musically barren period "Overnite Sensation" and "Apostrophe", but this piece of fabulous musique concrete from the ultimate bile merchant is a joy and a challenge to anyone with a brain.
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on 13 November 2007
Admittedly,this is for Zappaphiles rather than the casual listener,but I'd recommend it for a spin.Recorded in New York at roughly the same time as "We're Only In It For The Money"(late 1967)FZ acquired a mini-orchestra which comes up with fantastic versins of "Oh No" and "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance".The rest is a mixture of sound collage,spoken word,and general strangeness.
Reportedly FZ's favourite of his own albums,it's influence stretches through the ouevre("Weasels","Roxy","Lather","SUAPYG",right through to "Civilisation Phase III"-the latter even has some of the original recordings from "Lumpy Gravy" alongside later recordings.Well worth it for Zappaphiles,others may find other of FZs works more accessible.
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on 14 April 2011
It is well documented that Frank Zappa was inspired by Edgard Varese. This album is I feel an early tribute to him that is Varese. The album is not a standard rock album. In fact Zappa does not play on it. It is, as has already been stated by other reviewers, not an album for the rock fan who digs Zappa's guitar solos etc. However, it is an album well worth investigating in its own right. It has elements of the roots of Zappa,that is to say it has the Varese inspired orchestral elements with sound bites interspersed throughout, it has some elemental surf style music circa 1960 and some Jazz. It is I think, a commentary of early 1960's America through the eyes of a young Frank Zappa. Personally, I hated it on the first play, however, upon each further playing I am glad I did not abandon it to a charity shop, as it improves with each play. An essential album to the serious Zappa fan/collector. It reveals more about the man and his roots in small town suburban America.
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